Wayne Cawley Jr.

Age 84: Farmer and bank executive was state agriculture secretary under Govs. Hughes and Schaefer.

Mr. Cawley was a strong advocate for state farmers, lobbying national chains to carry Maryland products.

June 12, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun Reporter

Wayne Archie Cawley Jr., who advised Maryland farmers to sell their produce to local consumers while he was the state's agriculture secretary, died of a stroke Monday at his Denton home. He was 84.

"Don't sell wholesale when you can get the retail price," he said in a 1991 Sun story in which he told farmers they should consider all financial options, including participation at neighborhood markets. He also lobbied national chains to promote Maryland-grown vegetables and fruit, and local chickens. He used the slogan "Maryland with pride."

Born in the front bedroom of the family's Denton farm, he was a 1940 Caroline High School graduate. He grew up around the cows, chickens, pigs, oats, wheat, potatoes and barley his father raised.

"My father asked me if I wanted to go to college. My answer was, 'There's got to be something easier than this damned farm,'" Mr. Cawley said in a 1986 Sun article. "So he gave me 100 bucks and I got in a Model A Ford and drove to Salisbury State Teachers College."

His education there was interrupted by his service as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. He landed in Normandy on D-Day and participated in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. He also saw combat during the Battle of the Bulge. In newspaper interviews, he told how nearly all of his squad members lost their lives in the war.

"He had a terrible case of survivor's guilt," said his son Wayne Archie Cawley III of Denton. "He didn't talk about it much. He kept on having nightmares."

Before leaving Europe, and as a sergeant, he was selected to be in Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's honor guard in Berlin.

"He came back from the war shaken, seeking peace, not exactly sure what he wanted to do with his life," the 1986 Sun profile said.

Mr. Cawley completed a degree in economics at Washington College, married a Denton neighbor, Barbara Wynne Cooper, and enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Law.

He later recounted that after a year he was broke and not that excited about a future as a lawyer. He decided to return to the Eastern Shore. "It was the best move that I ever made," he said in the newspaper article.

He went to work picking tomatoes at 12.5 cents a basket. "I had a wife, three children, and a mortgage. Every basket I picked, I'd say, 'You dumb son of a bitch, what have you gotten yourself into?' "

He eventually took over the family farm in Denton and became a Denton National Bank controller and later vice president. Mr. Cawley said that while working at the bank, he learned about the cash-flow issues farmers faced.

In 1979, he was named agriculture secretary by Gov. Harry R. Hughes.

"It scared the hell out of me. I didn't know if my brand of business-oriented openness and saying what I think about a subject would work," he said in 1986.

In the Sun article, Mr. Cawley described himself as "obnoxious," "hardheaded" and "opinionated."

"He wanted farmers to make a little extra money and not be captive to the middleman," his son said. "He was an honest and independent man."

Mr. Cawley held the agriculture secretary post under the next governor, William Donald Schaefer, and retired in 1991. He was named the state's 1990 Administrator of the Year. The building housing the agriculture secretary's office is named for Mr. Cawley, who was the state's longest-serving agriculture secretary.

He "demonstrated his love of farming not only through his career, but also with his craft as a grain farmer," Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the family farm, Controversie, at 24699 Meeting House Road in Denton. The family will receive friends for an hour before and after the service.

In addition to his son, survivors include three other sons, Charles C. Cawley and Gail F. Cawley, both of Denton, and Lance Cawley of Great Falls, Va.; a daughter, Lynn C. Wilson of Alexandria, Va.; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2002.

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